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Paper 24

The Lowe Brothers
Teachers of Dancing in Scotland

Contributed by Paul Cooper, Research Editor

This paper explores the life and publications of the Lowe Brothers, a family of highly successful Scottish dancing masters who specialised in teaching Assembly Room dancing in 1820s Scotland. They were also the co-authors of a particularly useful book on dancing called Lowes' Ball-Conductor and Assembly Guide. The four brothers, Robert (1791-1853), John (1793-1839), Joseph (1796-1866) and James (1798-18??), ran academies across the Scottish lowlands (see Figure 1); Joseph achieved particular fame as a dancing master to the children of Queen Victoria in the 1850s.

Figure 1. Sites of Lowe dancing tuition in Scotland, courtesy of Google Maps.

If you're interested in Scottish social dancing of the Regency era, you might be interested in our previous paper about the Gow brothers, Nathaniel and John, and their associate Mr George Jenkins (another tutor to Royalty). I have little evidence of interaction between the Lowes and the Gows, other than that the Lowes included the Second and Third Set of Scottish Quadrilles in their repertoire, dances most closely associated with Nathaniel Gow; but the careers of the two families did overlap both chronologically and geographically, so they must have been aware of each other.

Previous research into the life of the Lowe brothers has been published elsewhere, most notably in the 1992 A New Most Excellent Dancing Master: The Journal of Joseph Lowe's visits to Balmoral and Windsor (1852-1860) to teach dance to the family of Queen Victoria, edited by Allan Thomas. It focuses on Joseph's activities in the 1850s, it's a fascinating read if you're interested in the wider subject. I'm indebted to that publication for some of the dates (dates of birth, etc.) used in this paper, though I've independently confirmed most of them.


The Lowe family prospered in the 19th Century, members of their family taught dancing across several generations. The parents of the brothers were John Lowe and Ann Clark of Brechin, they were married in 1786. Ann's death in 1829 was reported in the Perthshire Courier, 21st May 1829, they described her as Ann Clark, relict of the late Mr John Lowe, teacher of dancing; her husband John (Senior) must have died prior to this date. They had at least five children together, including a daughter Ann (1787-18??) and the four brothers. A further brother may have died at sea in 1820; this unconfirmed theory is based on a report in The Caledonian Mercury, 5th June 1820, which mentioned the loss of a young man name of Low, (brother to Mr Low, a teacher of dancing).

I've struggled to discover any useful information about John Lowe Senior of Brechin, but he presumably encouraged his sons in their chosen profession. His son John Lowe (1793-1839) appears to have been the first of the brothers to open a dancing school, that was in Perth in 1816 (Perthshire Courier, 19th September 1816). Perth, prior to this date, was well served by dancing masters, their adverts abound in references to the fashionable ball-room dances. It's unclear whether John studied under any of these tutors, but some of his clients would presumably have done so, and would expect his tuition to be equivalent to theirs. Some Perth based dancing masters who can be identified from their advertisements include:

  • Mr Dun - Probably Barclay Dun later of Edinburgh (a Robert Dun was teaching at Stonehaven in 1800, and a David Dun in Aberdeen in 1798, so the identification is uncertain). Dun published an advert in 1809 (Perthshire Courier, 18th December 1809) to publicise a Public Dance he was holding in Perth. In 1810 he advertised that (Perthshire Courier, 4th October 1810) Mr Dun has the honour to inform the Nobility, Gentry, and the Public, that he has arrived from London, and will commence Teaching upon Monday next, the 8th instant.. I know of no further references to Dun teaching in Perth, but references to Barclay Dun in Edinburgh appear from around 1811. If they are the same person, Barclay was teaching the Waltz in Edinburgh from 1811 (Caledonian Mercury, 19th October 1811) and published an important book on Quadrille dancing in 1818 (A Translation of Nine of the Most Fashionable Quadrilles). The Mr Dun in Perth advertised that he had arrived from London, presumably bringing newly fashionable dances like the Waltz with him.

  • Mr Strathy - almost certainly Alexander Strathy later of Edinburgh. An A. Strathy advertised in Perth in 1810 that (Perthshire Courier, 4th October 1810) he was: just returned from London with a selection of New Dances, which, added to his former practical knowledge, will, he trusts, afford that entire satisfaction, which will at once reward and stimulate his assiduity.. A similar advert in 1812 (Perthshire Courier, 1st October 1812) reported Mr Strathy respectfully intimates, that he is just returned from London, where he has acquired a varity of beautiful SPANISH, GERMAN, and FRENCH Dances, amongst which are the celebrated Guaracha Dance, the Castanet Minuet, the much admired Boleros, .... His tuition went on to take an even more interesting turn in 1814 (Perthshire Courier, 13th October 1814), where his advert included: To those who wish to become acquainted with Carre and Cadrille dancing, so well adapted to small parties, and so generally preferred in fashionable circles, Mr S. respectfully offers his attendance at their Lodgings, on moderate terms.. The term Cadrille was (according to an 1805 dictionary) a phonetic spelling of Quadrille. It was a dance that was still in the process of achieving fashionable status in London, Strathy's tuition in Scotland is unexpectedly early. I don't know of any further references to Strathy in Perth, but his rooms would shortly be taken by John Lowe (see Figure 2). By 1818 Alexander Strathy had arrived in Edinburgh and advertised that he offered instruction in Quadrille Dancing. He went on to publish one of the most important books on the subject in 1822 (Elements of the Art of Dancing).

  • Mr Sealey - from London and Bath. Sealey appears to have been an itinerant dancing master who stayed in Perth for a single season. He occupied the rooms vacated by Strathy, and advertised (Perthshire Courier, 2nd November 1815): Mr S having lately arrived from London and Bath, where he procured the newest and most fashionable Dances, and purposing to introduce every thing novel in the line of his profession, humbly solicits a share of public favour.. An earlier advert (Perthshire Courier, 6th July 1815) added a further detail: Mr S. takes the liberty to add, that he has had the honour of teaching HIS GRACE THE DUKE OF GORDON's Family in Edinburgh, and a number of the first Nobility in this country.

  • Mr Archibald Adam - possibly another itinerant teacher. He advertised in 1813 that (Perthshire Courier, 4th November 1813): In addition to a considerable number of Figure Dances and German Waltzes, Mr A. teaches in great variety Scotch, Irish, English, and French Steps..

  • Mr Robertson had been teaching dancing in Perth since at least 1815 (Perthshire Courier, 28th December 1815) but provided more details in his 1817 advertisement (Perthshire Courier, 25th September 1817): For the benefit of those young Ladies and Gentlemen who had finished their dancing education before the introduction of the Quadrille, Mr R. will be happy to appropriate a portion of his time to the purpose of private tuition. A class of eight, the requisite number for dancing Quadrilles, will be taught the most fashionable Figures and Steps.

  • Mr Proudfoot, Mr Ireland and others. I have little information about these teachers, but their adverts appear in the Perthshire Courier at assorted dates across the period.
Figure 2. Announcement for John Lowe's Classes, Perthshire Courier, 19th September 1816. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)
Perth was clearly well instructed by a number of widely travelled and respected dancing masters, particularly Mr Strathy. The Perthshire public were already familiar with the fashionable London dances prior to John Lowe opening his academy in 1816.

It's possible that John's brother Robert Lowe had already started teaching in Glasgow prior to 1816, I can't say. What should be clear is that many of Scotland's dancing masters regularly travelled to London to refresh their repertoires, the Lowe brothers were no different. Individual family members would make a trip to London, and what one brought back was rapidly shared with the others. This allowed them to remain at the forefront of fashionable trends for more than a decade, they might even be described as having a brand; their names were, presumably, widely recognised among the readers of the many newspapers that they advertised in.

The four brothers operated academies in different parts of Scotland; they also travelled to other towns and cities, thereby extending their influence. John was primarily based in Perth, Robert in Glasgow, Joseph in Edinburgh, and James in Dundee; but as can be seen in the map in Figure 1, their tuition was available across much of Scotland.

John Lowe (1793-1839)

John Lowe began teaching in Perth in 1816. His first advert in the Perthshire Courier, 19th September 1816 (see Figure 2), reported that he taken over the room formerly occupied by Mr Strathy and that Mr L. has studied from his infancy under the best masters; and having lately been in London and Edinburgh, he flatters himself that he has acquired the most fashionable style. A further advert later that year (Perthshire Courier, 21st November 1816) adds Mr L. intends to adopt a system of practice that has never been introduced in this place, and from its advantages he hopes it will meet the concurrence of his Friends..

In 1817 he announced that he was holding a Ball on the 9th May, and in September he advertised a collaboration with his brother Robert (Perthshire Courier 25th September 1817) to publish a Selection of the most fashionable Quadrilles, Country-dances, and Fancy Reels. He would go on to collaborate with Robert on further publications.

In 1819 he advertised that he would be teaching classes in Crieff (Perthshire Courier, 5th August 1819) and that Mr L. has taught for the last three years in Perth, the principal inhabitants of which will, he flatters himself, bear ample testimony to his character, and abilities, as a teacher, and having been, during the last summer, in Paris and in London, he trusts that he has acquired every thing new in his profession.. This is the second reference to his having studied in London, and the first to studying in Paris. In early 1820 he reported (Perthshire Courier, 6th January 1820) that he has the honour to inform his friends, that he has, in the course of the holidays, acquired a selection of SPANISH COUNTRY-DANCES, which are now become prevalent in the most fashionable circles in London and Edinburgh. Spanish Country Dances were a variant of normal Country Dances that had been taught in London by the likes of Edward Payne since around 1815, they were in the repertoire of many of London's dancing masters. This is, however, one of the first references to them being taught in Scotland.

One of John Lowe's students was a James Duff who went on to be a successful dancing master in his own right. Duff advertised in 1822 (Aberdeen Journal, 20th October 1822) that he for the last 14 months has been under the immediate tuition of Mr JOHN LOWE of Perth, (pupil of Mons. Deshayes & Coulon of Paris,) whose merits as a Teacher, have been duly appreciated by many families of the first distinction; and Mr D will venture to say that Mr L. is one of the first Quadrille Teachers in Scotland. It was also in 1822 that John and Robert Lowe collaborated to publish the first two editions of their Lowes' Ball Conductor; John mentioned it in an 1823 advertisement (Perthshire Courier, 31st January 1823, see Figure 3), together with some new Quadrille publications: Mr L. has just received LOWE'S Selection of Music for the first, second, and third Quadrilles: also LOWE's Ball Conductor.

Figure 3. John Lowe advertising Lowe publications, Perthshire Courier, 31st January 1823. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

In 1824 he advertised publication of Lowe's Bugle Airs for the first Quadrilles (Perthshire Courier, 2nd January 1824); these Quadrille tunes were subsequently rearranged for the Piano Forte c.1825 by H. Smith, an Organist in Dundee. A report from later in 1824 (Perthshire Courier, 7th May 1824) described John's pupils presenting him with an elegant Silver Snuff-box, richly embossed and bearing a suitable inscription upon the lid, in testimony of their respect and gratitude for his unwearied exertions.

In 1825 John once again advertised that he was recently returned from London (Perthshire Courier, 13th October 1825), and shortly afterwards announced (Perthshire Courier, 22nd December 1825) that the Lowe's Charles Xth's Coronation Quadrilles are now published, with the Figures of the Sixdrilles. The Sixdrilles were a new variant of the Quadrille designed for 12 dancers; they were an interesting and briefly popular variation, the Lowes were among the first publishers in Britain to promote them (see Figure 10 for an example of a Sixdrille choreography). Many references to the Sixdrilles can be found over the following five years, mostly from Scottish and Northern English sources.

In 1827 John's brother Joseph was finding increased success in Edinburgh. Joseph had been holding regular classes in Elgin, but had to cease doing so; he instead arranged for John to take those classes. Joseph promoted John to the locality in the following terms (Inverness Courier, 25th April 1827): Mr JOHN LOWE, during the whole of his professional career, has been honoured by the patronage of the first families wherever he has been, and with a view to render himself worthy of such distinguished favour, he has not failed (at whatever expense) to acquire every thing fashionable in his profession.. John was to teach in Elgin for a season from early May 1827, before leaving he held a Ball in Perth to showcase his pupils' skills. A description of this Ball was published in the Perthshire Courier for 3rd May 1827:

We were much gratified with an hour spent at Mr Lowe's Ball on Tuesday evening. The prevalence of the measles, we understood, deprived that gentleman of some of his most efficient pupils, and, of course, of the presence of many of their relatives; but, on the whole, the company was both numerous and fashionable, and seemed highly delighted with the general appearence of the pupils, and the order and regularity with which all the arrangements of the evening were conducted. The plan of the ball was, we think, very judiciously adapted to interest and amuse the company, as well as to display the proficiency of the scholars - in substituting for the tedious country dance a variety of the most pleasing of the novelties of Terpsichore. Some of the fancy dances were executed in a very superior style, and their effect was much improved by the uniform and characteristic dresses of the dancers in various pas. of which we are so barbarous as to be ignorant of the technical names. In no branch of education are the merits of the teacher so immediately recognizable as in that of dancing; and a stranger could not have been five minutes in the room on Tuesday without being sensible, from the appearence of the pupils, of Mr Lowe's qualifications as an able and a successful teacher.

In 1829 John was once again teaching the most newly fashionable dances. The most notable amongst which was the Gallopade (Perthshire Courier, 19th November 1829), a dance that had only arrived in London earlier that same year; John's brother Joseph had brought it to Edinburgh from a recent trip South. In 1830 John supported his youngest brother James at a Ball in Dundee, the Perthshire Courier reported (4th March 1830) The Music was excellent, Mr John Low, from Perth, being the leader, whose abilities as a player on the violin are well known. We have seldom an opportunity of hearing such music in Dundee as that of the Messrs Lowe, and to their skill in this department no little of their great success as teachers of dancing may fairly be attributed.. This may have been a special occasion as James would shortly leave for a five year visit to England.

John continued advertising his classes and Balls in Perth until his death in 1839. The Fife Herald reported (14th February 1839) that he'd died on the 20th January that year. His wife's death was subsequently reported in the Dundee Courier for 16th July 1844. John was the first of the four brothers to die, his son Robert Lowe is understood to have taught dancing in Dundee, another son J.C. Lowe remained in Perth.

Robert Lowe (1791-1853)

Robert Lowe had his academy in Glasgow, he looked after the family's interests there. It's not clear when he started teaching, the first evidence I know of being an 1817 advert published by John announcing a joint project to publish a musical collection together (Perthshire Courier 25th September 1817). The earliest of Robert's own adverts I've found was published in the Inverness Courier for the 13th April 1820. He was based in Glasgow at the time, but the advert announced a two month trip to teach at Tain; he offered Quadrilles and Spanish Country Dances, which are now prevalent in London and Edinburgh. This repertoire matches similar intentions advertised by John Lowe at around the same date (Perthshire Courier, 6th January 1820).

Figure 4. Robert Lowe writing from Bath, Glasgow Herald, 25th September 1820. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

Robert went on to spend the summer of 1820 visiting London and Bath. He printed an advert in the Glasgow Herald (25th September 1820, see Figure 4) in which he announced a delay in reopening his Academy. He explained: Mr R Lowe, during his residence in London this Summer, has acquired the Swedish Dances, Les Ecossoises, and Les Mescolanzes styles of Ball Room Dancing, which have not as yet been introduced in Scotland, and which he thinks will give general satisfaction. In place of again visiting Paris as he intended, Mr L. is now on a Tour to some of the most celebrated places of Fashionable resort in England, which he hopes will prove of great advantage to his Pupils.. Robert didn't name his tutors in London, but one of them was evidently G.M.S. Chivers, the inventor of several of the dances mentioned (there's little evidence of Chivers' dances being taught by other dancing masters in London at this date, so they were probably taught by Chivers himself). It's likely that he also brought a collection of dancing manuals home from London with him, especially those of Chivers; we'll discuss Chivers' influence on Robert's writing below. I suspect that Robert's championing of these dances helped them to achieve a greater popularity in Scotland than they had at home in London at this same date.

Robert announced another two month trip to Tain in 1821 (Inverness Courier, 22nd March 1821), his advert once again promised tuition in Quadrilles and Spanish Country Dances... it's interesting that his newly acquired Chivonian repertoire was not being promoted, perhaps implying a recognition that they were not as popular as he'd initially thought. He took another trip to London and Paris in the summer of 1821 (Inverness Courier, 28th March 1822) and announced publication in March 1822 of the Messrs Lowes' Ball Conductor, a collaboration between himself and his brother John. We'll discuss the significance of this book shortly.

Occasional adverts were published by Robert throughout the 1820s, one of the most interesting was in the Glasgow Herald for the 18th September 1829; it advertised the most Fashionable Dances practised, including La Galopade, ou Les Galoppes favorites, introduced by one of the Foreign Ambassadors at the King's last Juvenile Ball, and first in Scotland by Mr. Joseph Lowe of Edinburgh, on his recent return from London and Paris.. Once again we see one of the brothers benefiting from the activities of another; John was also teaching the Gallopades at around the same date (Perthshire Courier, 19th November 1829).

A similar advert from 1830 (Glasgow Herald, 17th December 1830, see Figure 9) reported on an Assembly at which every style of DANCING presently fashionable, including the MAZOURKA, as performed at the Court of St. Petersburgh, and also at London by Mons. GUYNEMER, which Mr. Lowe's Pupils will introduce, as they have been first in presenting every fashionable Dance to the inhabitants of Glasgow for some years past. Mr Lowe's Pupils will also, as usual, exhibit some of the higher exercises - Minuets, Gavottes, Pas Seuls, Pas de Deux, &c.. This is an early reference to the Mazurka being danced in Scotland.

Robert's repertoire grew even further in 1831 to include the Kracoviac, a dance which had been brought to Scotland by his brother Joseph's new wife Charlotte Eager (Glasgow Herald, 30th September 1831), we'll read more of her below. Robert also hosted an Assembly of his pupils (Glasgow Herald, 23rd December 1831) described as follows:

Mr Lowe has the honour of announcing that an ASSEMBLY of his present PUPILS will take place in the GREAT HALL of the INGRAM STREET ROOMS, on SATURDAY FIRST, at 11 o'clock, when they will perform in presence of their friends a variety of Quadrilles, Minuets, Waltzes, and Gallopades, with a number of other Dances or Exercises of the Academy which tend to give grace to the figure, and distinctness of execution to the feet. Mr LOWE feels grateful for the liberal encouragement he continues to experience in Glasgow, and hopes it will be observed that his Pupils have already made considerable progress, although many of them have not as yet finished their first Quarter.

Further occasional references to Robert's academy can be found after 1831. He taught in Glasgow for over forty years according to an 1855 advert (Glasgow Herald, 19th September 1855). If taken literally, that forty years in business (prior to his death in 1853) implies that he started teaching prior to 1813; that would be before his brother John commenced tuition in Perth, making him the first of the Brothers to teach dancing. That 1855 advert was placed by George Lowe, the eldest son of Joseph Lowe; it indicates that George had married Robert's daughter (Anne), and that the pair of them continued to teach in Glasgow at that date.

James Lowe (1798-18??)

James was based in Dundee, but like the other brothers, he also travelled to teach elsewhere. An 1824 advert (Fife Herald, 29th April 1824) indicated that he would travel to Cupar to teach for two months. A June advert (Fife Herald, 3rd June 1824) indicates that he was teaching both Quadrilles and Country Dances, and would go on to teach at St. Andrews. Similar adverts were published in 1825.

Figure 5. James Lowe in England, Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 5th December 1831. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

An 1826 advert (Aberdeen Journal, 5th July 1826) indicates that he would be teaching a season at Stonehaven. It added: Ladies or Gentlemen wishing to see Mr L's new system of exercising his pupils in extensive motions, Spanish exercises, Marching exercises, for improving the Ear, &c. are respectfully invited to visit his class-room. He also offered tuition in Dancing, Music, or Fencing, and announced that he would go on to teach in Aberdeen.

I don't have much information about James' tuition, but a collection of programmes for Lowe family juvenile balls is known to have existed (there are references to them in the archives of the National Library of Scotland, though all but one is lost). It's often difficult to distinguish one Lowe brother from another in the historical record; the collection of dance plans has been ascribed to John Lowe by archivists, but the one surviving programme described an 1823 event in Montrose that I suspect was hosted by James. The collection originally spanned events across the 1820s, the last of which was held in 1829.

In 1830 James travelled to England, he would go on to spend five years away from home. An 1831 advert in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal (5th December 1831, see Figure 5) indicates that Mr Lowe (late Pupil of Monsieur Coulon, principal Maitre de Danse a Paris), respectfully intimates, that his PUPILS taught at the MERE Academy will go through part of their LESSONS, ahead of an Assembly Ball. It went on to add that Mr Lowe will continue to teach in Frome, Warminster, Mere, Bruton, and their vincinities, and it advertised copies of Lowe's Assembly Guide for sale (presumably the 3rd edition that had recently been updated by Joseph).

By 1832 he'd progressed to Bath. An advert (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 1st March 1832) offered Lowe's Complete ASSEMBLY GUIDE, containing LESSONS on DEPORTMENT, and BALL ROOM ETIQUETTE, is now complete, (price 5s.) and to be had of Mr. LOWE, Professor of Dancing, it continued that Mrs. Lowe continues to instruct LADIES in a superior style of POONAH PAINTING and ORIENTAL TINTING, on Rice Paper, Velvet, Card-Board, and Satin..

He returned to Dundee in 1835, and advertised (Fife Herald, 24th September 1835) that Mr Lowe, after having been professionally engaged in London, Paris, and the fashionable city of Bath, for the last five years, most respectfully begs to intimate that he means to re-open school in Cupar and St Andrews in early 1836.

James published further adverts in the 1840s.

Joseph Lowe (1796-1866)

Joseph began his career teaching in Inverness, Elgin and Forres (Inverness Courier, 23rd October 1823). In 1824 (Inverness Courier, 15th April 1824) he announced a brief trip to Tain, but warned He respectfully solicits the early attendance of Pupils, as his stay will be very limited, in consequence of his intended visit to London and Paris. By the end of July he advertised from London that (Inverness Courier, 29th July 1824) Mr L. has spent part of this Summer in London and Paris, where he has had many opportunities of seeing the different Branches of his Profession taught in the first style.. He expressed an intention to open classes in Edinburgh, and warned that he would have less time to spend in Elgin, Inverness and Forres as a consequence.

Figure 6. Charlotte Eager on stage, Norfolk Chronicle, 27th November 1813. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

He was properly established in Edinburgh by 1826 when he published his Charles the Tenth's Coronation Quadrilles (that is, his Sixdrilles, Inverness Courier, 3rd May 1826). He regretfully felt it necessary to cut his ties with Elgin in 1827, he arranged for his brother John Lowe to travel there in his place (Inverness Courier, 25th April 1827). He did however continue travelling to Inverness and Forres (Inverness Courier, 27th June 1827), he added: During the Winter, in Edinburgh, Mr Lowe has studied, and will be happy to Teach, that part of Gymnastic exercises now so generally introduced into all public and private Seminaries; the highly beneficial tendency of these exercises now so generally admitted, that any lengthened detail on their advantages would be superfluous.. He went on to add that gymnastics produce much elasticity in the joints, by the frequent extension and contraction of the articular ligaments.

On the 30th October 1827 Joseph married Miss Jane Maclachlan, only daughter of Mrs Maclachlan, Boarding School, Forres (Inverness Courier, 31st October 1827). This was probably a second marriage as his eldest son George was born around 1823. This marriage only lasted a single month as Jane died suddenly on the 2nd December (Inverness Courier, 12th December 1827).

Joseph travelled again in 1829, he reported (Inverness Courier, 29th July 1829, see Figure 7) that he has just returned from a professional Tour to London and Paris, and added Mr Lowe having frequently been solicited to publish a Selection of his Dance Tunes, he begs to state, that such is now in progress. It was after this 1829 trip that he began teaching the Gallopades in Edinburgh.

It was in 1830 that Joseph invested significant effort into updating the Ball Conductor that John and Robert had published in 1822. The all new 3rd edition was published in 1831, an advert in the Caledonian Mercury (3rd March 1831) announced that it was just published.

1831 was a big year for Joseph. In addition to publishing a major revision of his Brothers' book, he also travelled to London again and remarried there (Perthshire Courier, 7th July 1831). His new wife was Charlotte Eager, daughter of a successful music and dancing master from Great Yarmouth. Charlotte had been dancing almost since she was born, she certainly performed from no later than 1810 when she was perhaps 7 years old (Norfolk Chronicle, 2nd June 1810, see also Figure 6). Her father continued teaching in the Yarmouth area for a little longer, but moved to Edinburgh to be with her in 1833 (Norfolk Chronicle, 24th August 1833). The Eagers, father and daughter, provided assistance to Joseph in the years to come, and Charlotte bore him many children. Almost all of Joseph's adverts from this date forward mentioned his wife and their joint tuition, until her death in December 1845 (Caledonian Mercury, 1st January 1846). Charlotte was credited with helping to bring a new wave of Polish influenced dances to Edinburgh, she was personally associated with the Cracoviac dance (Glasgow Herald, 30th September 1831). One of their early professional acts as a couple was to publish their 1832 (Caledonian Mercury, 17th March 1832) Favourite Set of Mazourkas, and the new polish dance the Cracoviac; a footnote to the Cracoviac within reveals: This Favorite Dance was first introduced into England in May last, at the Queen's Juvenile Assembly, and was given to Mrs LOWE by the Professor who taught it to the PRINCESS VICTORIA.

This juvenile assembly was Princess Victoria's 12th Birthday Ball on the 24th May 1831, Victora's dancing tutors at the time were Madame Bourdin and Mr Henry Kendon (Morning Post, 26 May 1831). The band was led by John Weippert (probably John Thomas Lewis Weippert), and they were reported to have danced Quadrilles, Waltzes and Galopades throughout the night.

Joseph and Charlotte published numerous adverts throughout the 1830s and early 1840s. Joseph continued teaching after her death, but it was his invitation to teach the Royal family in 1852 (Caledonian Mercury, 27th December 1852) that assured his fame. Most of his children also taught dancing, and he published numerous collections of dances in the 1850s dedicated by permission to Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen (Edinburgh Almanak, 1857). He died in 1866.

The Messrs Lowe's Selection of Dance Music, early 1830

Several of the brothers advertised in 1829 that they were producing a collection of music. Joseph was probably responsible for compiling the collection that was published in Edinburgh in early 1830, most of the music was credited to a Mr. John Thomson. This work was more than just a collection of music, it was a prequel to the 3rd edition of their Ball Conductor. It was funded by Subscription and included 39 pages of dancing music.

Figure 7. Joseph's Activities in 1829, Inverness Courier, 29th July 1829. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

The first indication of a plan to publish can be found in an advert published by John (Perthshire Courier, 5th March 1829): Mr L. takes this opportunity of mentioning that LISTS of SUBSCRIBERS for the Messrs LOWE's NEW MUSIC are in the Booksellers. Price to Subscribers, 7s. 6d. - to others, 10s. 6d.. The next to mention it was Joseph on his return from London (Inverness Courier, 29th July 1829, see Figure 7): Mr LOWE having frequently been solicited to publish a Selection of his Dance Tunes, he begs to state, that such is now in progress, and as the Selection is to be published by Subscription, those wishing to become Subscribers will require to give their Names as early as possible. The price to Subscribers will be 7s. 6d., to Non-subscribers 10s. 6d.. Robert also advertised the work (Glasgow Herald, 18th September 1829): The Messrs. LOWE's selection of Dance Music is in progress, and will speedily be published; as also the third edition of their Ball Conductor; it's clear from this reference that the music and the new edition of the Conductor were being planned together. In November John added (Perthshire Courier, 19th November 1829): The Messrs LOWE's NEW MUSIC is expected to be ready in a few weeks.

It's likely that the collection was available from early 1830, though it may have been published in late 1829. The publication included a list of over 300 Subscribers who had supported the project, they were from all over Scotland, mostly from the places of known Lowe tuition highlighted in Figure 1. A small proportion of the Subscribers had titles, most notably the Right Hon. Viscountess Arbuthnot; but most appear to have been relatively ordinary ladies and gentlemen, with a few identifiable dancing or music masters amongst them. Almost all of the subscribers lived in Scotland, with just a very few people listed from England.

The collection included both music and dance notation, much of which aligns with the third edition of their Ball Conductor. It also included a detailed description of the newly popular Gallopade dance, possibly the first such description published in Scotland. One intriguingly named tune is Mr Eager's Visit to Edinburgh; Mr Eager, surely Joseph's future father-in-law, presumably visited Edinburgh with Charlotte. Their meeting eventually led to Joseph's marriage to Charlotte in 1831; the presence of the tune is a hint that their meeting was of significance. The collection also includes alternative music to the Les Lanciers Quadrille, composed by Mr Eager himself.

The excitement around the creation of this work may have been the immediate trigger that led Joseph to create a third edition of the Ball Conductor.

The Lowes' Ball Conductor and Assembly Guide, 1822 and 1831

The Lowe brothers were responsible for several publications, by far the most interesting is this wonderful book (see Figure 8). At least three editions were published, with significant changes introduced in the third edition.

Figure 8. Lowe's Ball-Conductor and Assembly Guide, 3rd Edition, 1831

An advertisement was published in the Inverness Courier on the 28th March 1822, it reported: The Messrs. LOWE have just published a small volume titled, the BALL CONDUCTOR, containing directions for the performance of Quadrilles, Mescolanzes, Ecossoises, Spanish, English, Irish, and Scotish Country Dances, Reels, &c. &c. with a few hints on deportment and Ball-room etiquette, which they with deference would recommend to the attention of those Ladies and Gentlemen who are in the habit of attending Assemblies and Dancing parties.. This initial edition appears to have been a collaboration between John Lowe and Robert Lowe, I suspect Robert was responsible for writing the bulk of it.

A second advert was published in 1822 by John Lumsden, a music seller in Glasgow, advertising the second edition (Glasgow Herald, 29th November 1822). He wrote:

Just published ... The Second Edition of LOWE'S BALL ROOM CONDUCTOR, containing directions for the Performance of the most Fashionable Quadrilles, Mescolanzes, Ecossoises, Country Dances, &c. &c., with some useful hints on Deportment and Ball Room Etiquette. And on the 25th of next month will be published LOWE'S SELECTION of NEW MUSIC for the Second and Third Quadrilles.

What place is so proper as the Assembly Room, to see the fashions and manners of the times, to study men and characters, to be accustomed to receive flattery without regarding it, to learn good-breeding and politeness without affectation, to see grace without wantonness, gaiety without riot, air and dignity without haughtiness, and freedom without levity.

The quotation Lumsden printed is present on the first page of the Lowes' book; it derives (without acknowledgement) from the preface to Thomas Wilson's 1808 An Analysis Of Country Dancing. At least one of the authors clearly had Wilson's text in his Library!

It's likely that the second edition of the Conductor was a simple reprint of the first edition. I don't have access to either of the first two editions, so I can't be certain about their contents, but some assumptions can be made. Much of the new content in the third edition is readily discernible as being post-1822 in nature, and the advert in the Glasgow Herald lists much of the original content; this allows a reasonable analysis... but if you do have a copy to share, do please get in touch!

What I can say is that the 1822 material was influenced by recent London publications. We've already seen a Wilsonian influence, another major source was the works of G.M.S. Chivers. Robert Lowe's 1820 adverts (see Figure 4) hint that he had studied under Chivers in London, it's likely that he returned to Glasgow with copies of Chivers' books, and referred to them when writing his own.

As an example of the similarity with the Chivers text, consider the following representative clause from the middle of the Etiquette Guide (all emphasis is mine):

Lowes' Ball Conductor, 3rd Edition, 1831G.M.S. Chivers' The Dancers' Guide, 1821
Various methods of distributing the numerical tickets for the couples composing the different dances are practised. Some directors give them to the Ladies or Gentlemen as they enter; to the first, No 1, and so on. Others wait till as many have assembled as may be thought sufficient to constitute the first set, when a lottery is made of the tickets, which are drawn either by the Ladies or the Gentlemen present. We would conceive this to be the best plan, as it prevents all haste for the purpose of priority of place; and we would also recommend the drawing of the tickets by the Gentlemen, as, if any altercation takes place, it would be unpleasant for a Lady to argue about her situation in the dance, and many would much rather lose it. The Gentlemen having the tickets can make no difference with regard to the Ladies having the privilege of choosing the dances, as it is every Gentleman's duty in this case to consult his partner, and to call whatever dance will be most agreeable to her. Ladies of quality are generally entitled to the highest places in the dance; and if several Ladies of the same distinction are present, they take their places by seniority. The Master of the Ceremonies should present the first Lady or Gentleman, with No. 1, and so on as they enter. Some conductors give the ladies the numbers, others the gentlemen; but I should conceive the latter more correct, particularly if any altercation takes place, for it would be unpleasant for a lady to argue about her situation, in short, many would rather put up with the inconvenience; though I have heard say, if the ladies have no number they have no call, which is erroneous, for a gentleman will always consult the Lady first.
The Lowe text shows clear derivation from the Chivers text, but adds significant additional information. I don't know if this fragment of text survived unchanged from the 2nd edition of the book; it wouldn't surprise me if the original text was more closely derived from Chivers, and that Joseph obfuscated and enhanced it for the third edition. To be fair to the Lowes, it was common at this time for text to be reused across dancing guides; they're less flagrant in borrowing than some other authors were. Two 1825 English etiquette guides (those of Woakes and Tegg) show much greater similarity with Chivers' text. Chivers in turn was influenced by earlier writers, including Wilson, Payne and Cherry; and they in turn were influenced by the myriad Assembly Room rules. Most of the Chiverian influence is less obvious than in the above quotation.

Other influences can also be speculated upon. The start of the introduction in the third edition is identical to part of an essay on dancing published in London in the 1829 second edition of The Young Lady's Book: A Manual of Elegant Recreations, Exercises, and Pursuits, many other fragments of the Lowes' introductory text appear to derive from that same essay. However, I can't determine which work borrowed from the other without an earlier edition of the Lowes' book to compare it with; regardless of which text copied from the other, it's another clear example of the reuse of information that was endemic in the publishing business at this time. Another source is the 1776 eighth edition of The Polite Philosopher; much of the Lowe's essay on Observations and Maxims is closely derived from this work.

The Ball Conductor was mentioned in several Lowe family adverts of the later 1820s, but the next significant new information comes from 1829 when Robert published an advert in the Glasgow Herald (18th September 1829), it reports: The Messrs. LOWE's selection of Dance Music is in progress, and will speedily be published; as also the third edition of their Ball Conductor, containing a description of the most fashionable dances, with rules for deportment and ball room etiquette.. Over a year later Robert published another advert (Glasgow Herald, 17th December 1830, see Figure 9) which mentioned: A New Edition of LOWE'S BALL CONDUCTOR and ASSEMBLY GUIDE, giving a description of the origin of Quadrilles, Gallopades, Mazourkas, Waltzing, and all other fashionable Ball-Room Dances, with their proper figures and manner of performance, is in the press at Edinburgh, under the superintendence of Mr. Joseph Lowe, and will immediately be published. This advert introduced the new title for the book, and lists much of the new content added by Joseph. John described it as just published in a January 1831 advert (Perthshire Courier, 13th January 1831).

Joseph published advertisements for the book in Edinburgh in both 1831 and 1832, as did John in Perth and James in England. Joseph continued to promote the book in his advertisements through to 1835, but I've not found references to it thereafter.

Figure 9. Robert Lowe's Tuition, and Joseph's updates, Glasgow Herald, 17th December 1830.

The early 1831 third edition is a fascinating work. Three distinct phases of development can be discerned within it:

  • Content that could have been published in 1822 - much of the theoretically 1822 compatible material probably was published in 1822; some of it was influenced by the publications in London of G.M.S. Chivers and Thomas Wilson (and perhaps others). The 1822 adverts offer additional clues for identifying these early fragments, though they may have been edited and enhanced for the third edition.
  • New information for 1829 - a great deal of new information pertaining to the late 1820s was added sometime thereafter, it was distributed throughout the book. Robert's adverts inform us that an update was being prepared in 1829, or early 1830; this resulted in the new information being scattered throughout the work, both as new sections, and interleaved with the older information. The new information included coverage of fashionable dances from 1829 (notably the Gallopades), but not from 1831 (there's no reference to Charlotte's Cracoviac). The original 1822 text may have been rewritten at this time, it's therefore difficult to be certain about which parts date from 1822 and which from c.1830.
  • Afterthoughts - a second wave of new information was added after the initial rewrite. This additional information was suffixed to the end of the book in a way that would avoid having to change the printing plates that were (presumably) already prepared. This new material was described as Dances omitted in their proper places, it includes around six pages of text describing a variety of European social dances. It's likely that this material was added in late 1830.
If the additions for the third edition were added in two waves, that might explain Robert's 1829 claim that publication would speedily be published, and his late 1830 claim (see Figure 9) over a year later that it was in the press. Joseph left on a trip to England shortly after publishing the third edition, it was there that he married Charlotte Eager and embarked on a new stage of his life and career.

A full description of the contents of this wonderful little book would be a bit too verbose for inclusion here; but if you have a copy to share, please do get in touch as I'd like to be able to link to it. The third edition spans 178 pages, and describes the following dance forms: Quadrilles, Sixdrilles, the Monferina, Reels, the Gallopade, the Mazourka, Waltzing, the Mescolanzes, the Ecossoises, Spanish Dances, Lowes' Polonaise, the Circassian Circle, Country Dances (English, Scottish, Medley and Irish), La Cachucha, the Bolero, the Fandango and Guaracha, the Tarantella, Landlers, the Reydowak or Reydowatzka and La Valse Hongroise. It also contains essays on various subjects of relevance to ball room dancing.

The brothers concluded their introduction to the third edition as follows:

we have been at considerable pains and expense to acquire a thorough knowledge of our profession; and presuming that we have maintained respectable characters, we are ready to stand or fall by comparison with others; but we have the most substantial reasons for believing that our merits were long ago discovered by the public; and we shall ever acknowledge, with pride and gratitude, the distinguished patronage that has so long been bestowed upon us.

R., J., J., & J.S. Lowe.

Boltons, Boulognes, & the Mysterious T.B.

The Lowes weren't the only family to be both teaching dancing, and publishing, in Glasgow in the mid to late 1820s. Several other families stand out as having comparable achievements.

The first such family are the Messrs. Bolton. They advertised that the 4th edition of their Ball Conductor was just published in 1829 (Glasgow Herald, 18th September 1829). I don't know of any surviving copies of this work, but the title is strikingly similar to that of the Lowe Brothers' book; not only that, but they claimed that it contained the Figures of the most Fashionable Dances, as at present practised at the public and private assemblies in London and Paris. The same advert in 1829 indicates that their repertoire at this date included Quadrilles, Sixdrilles, Waltzing, Circassian Circles and Country Dances, a list that closely matches the repertoire of the Lowe Brothers. It appears that the Boltons had published their book before Joseph had updated the Lowe text, so it's possible that Joseph was influenced by the Boltons' Book.

I can't identify precisely who the Boltons were, but their surname has frequently turned up in my research. A Thomas Bolton published a rather unusual New Musical Publication containing a variety of dances and songs in 1808 (The Times, 7th December 1808). An eminent dancing master named Bolton from Manchester died in 1809 (Manchester Mercury, 31st January 1808). The celebrated English tenor John Braham married a Miss Bolton in Manchester in 1816 (Caledonian Mercury, 25th November 1816), she was the daughter of a small dancing master of that town (Leicester Chronicle, 26th September 1818); at least one branch of the Manchester Boltons was also related by marriage to another family of Northern dancing masters - the Wilsons, of whom the celebrated Thomas Wilson might be related. The evidence for this connection is circumstantial, we've written about it elsewhere. I have read some letters from members of the Braham family to a T. Wilson Esquire, sadly I was unable to prove that their correspondent was the dancing master of the same name, the contents were too banal to be identifiable. A Mr Bolton announced that he'd opened a dancing academy in Glasgow in 1826 (Glasgow Herald, 4th December 1826).

Figure 10. Part of a Sixdrille choreography from the T.B. Manuscript, c.1826. Image courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.

These various Boltons may all be of the same extended family, and are potentially linked to both Thomas Wilson and John Braham. The Messrs Bolton of 1829 were presumably the Mr Bolton of 1826, and his sons. Their Ball Conductor could perhaps have been an evolution of Thomas Bolton's New Musical Publication from 1808, or it may be an unrelated work, perhaps influenced by the first edition of the Lowes' book... if you have a copy, do please get in touch!

A second family of interest is that of Monsieur Boulogne. He opened a French Dancing Academy in Glasgow in 1826 (Glasgow Herald, 15th September 1826). He claimed to have procured from Paris the Original and Proper Set of the much admired Sixdrilles, and the original set of Italian Carnival Quadrilles. In 1827 he advertised that Mons. Boulogne's Books of all the new Dances are published, and to be had, with Cards of Terms, at all the Music Warehouses and Libraries (Glasgow Herald, 28th September 1827). A further advert in 1828 adds Mons. B. having been established as a Ballet and Dancing Master in London, and having for the period of 14 years served in L'Academie Royale, Paris, and the King's Theatre, London, he presumes that, without incurring the charge of presumption, he is entitled to claim the reputation of a finished Teacher (Glasgow Herald, 26th September 1828).

I've not read Boulogne's book, but it was published before that of the Boltons', and before Joseph's rewrite of the Lowes' book. It may have influenced both publications. A further curiosity can be found in both Mr Bolton and Mons Boulogne having operated out of the same address in Glasgow at only one year apart; they must have known each other, they could perhaps have been related. I do find the similarity in their names to be suggestive... could the Boltons and Boulognes have been the same family, but taking an English or French surname at different times for professional convenience? Thomas Wilson, in his Danciad publication of 1824, indicated that the adoption of a French surname by an English dancing master was not unusual.

One of the children of Joseph & Charlotte, Joseph Eager Lowe (born 1836), eventually emigrated to New Zealand. An important cache of dance texts was subsequently discovered in New Zealand, probably from his personal collection. One of the most interesting works was a hand written manuscript by an anonymous dancing master, c.1826, with the initials T.B. on the cover. This manuscript documents a range of choreographed performance and social dances, including a set of Sixdrilles (see Figure 10). As we've seen, the Sixdrilles are strongly associated with Edinburgh and Glasgow from late 1825, the earliest known British references including those of the Lowe brothers, closely followed by those of the Boulognes and Boltons. The first reference to the Sixdrilles I know involves a dancing master called Mr Paris in Manchester, he advertised that he'd composed the music and figures of a New Dance, called Charles the Tenth's Coronation Six drilles, for the accommodation of eight Ladies and four Gentlemen (The Guardian, 25th June 1825). A copy of the manuscript is available through the National Library of New Zealand. The identity of the mysterious T.B. is unknown, but I'd speculate that it's likely to have been either one of the Boltons (perhaps Thomas Bolton himself), or one of the Boulognes. The sixdrilles being closely associated with both Manchester and Glasgow, and their inclusion in this manuscript, does hint that it may have belonged to a member of the Bolton family. The process by which this manuscript came into the possession of one of Joseph's children is unclear, perhaps there was a later marriage connection.

The Lowes' Contribution to British Social Dancing

From a modern point of view, the Lowes' Ball Conductor and Assembly Guide was their major contribution to dance history; they did however publish other works, including collections of dance music. A Francis Lowe published his Select Quadrille Preceptor for 1838 in London, presumably in late 1837 or 1838 (see Figure 11), a copy of which is available courtesy of dance historian Richard Powers. I don't know how Francis was related to the family in Scotland, I can only assume that he was part of the extended family.

Figure 11. Lowe's Selection of Popular Country Dances, 1853; and Francis Lowe's Select Quadrille Preceptor for 1838

The family taught dancing across much of Scotland, they hosted Balls, and they were influential in bringing fashionable dances to Scotland from London and Paris. In some cases they brought dances so quickly that they were ahead of much of England in popularising those dances; they were amongst the first to teach Spanish Country Dances, Swedish Country Dances, Ecossoises & Mescolanze dances, all of which arose in London in the 1810s. They were also amongst the first to promote the Gallopades, Mazourka & Cracoviac dances in Scotland from 1829. Their promotion of these dances outside of London may have helped to establish the dances nationwide.

In several cases they were not only the first in Scotland to promote a dance, but among the first in Britain. This is most noticeable with the Sixdrilles from late 1825. They were amongst the first to promote the dance after it was itroduced in Manchester in 1825, references to the dances can be tracked South from Edinburgh over the months and years after the Lowes began teaching them.

One interesting dance especially associated with the Lowes was the Monferina. Their variant was in a Quadrille format, it featured in the third edition of their Ball Conductor, along with a note that it had been danced in Scotland for nearly 20 years. The earliest reference I've located for it in Britain is from a Ball Plan published by one of the Lowes, probably James, in 1823 for a juvenile Ball to showcase his pupils. The document reports: The Monferrina is a dance peculiar to the state of Monferratto, it suits Scotch music so well, however, that Mr L. thinks proper to have it performed to some favourite national airs. This dance may have been a hybrid that they promoted in their academies, and may have been associated with a Country Dancing tune called The Italian Momfrina that had circulated in Britain since around 1801.

Joseph went on to teach the children of Queen Victoria in the 1850s. His Journal of the period offers a fascinating insight into the life of a privileged dancing master, and the popularity of Scottish dancing amongst the Royal Family. The Queen herself is described dancing Reels and mastering steps under Joseph's tuition, and many of the Royal children danced with Joseph's own children, enjoying such tunes as Pop Goes the Weasel. Figure 11 shows a collection of dances published by Joseph Lowe in 1853 dedicated by permission to her Royal Highness The Princess Royal. He recorded in his journal for 3rd January 1853: I gave Miss Hildyard the sheets of the Country Dance music and she promised to use her influence to get me permission to dedicate the work to the Princess Royal. The collection includes dances that may have been danced in the early 1820s, including a Spanish Country Dance, Circassian Circle, Tempete dance, Lancers Quadrille, and a variety of traditional Country Dances (it also includes dances from the 1830s and 1840s). Joseph also published six collections of The Dance Music of Scotland, they are available to view courtesy of the University of Michigan.

The innovative new dances of the 1810s and 1820s remained somewhat popular in Britain throughout the 19th Century, despite the overwhelming success of the Waltz and Quadrille and some later dances. Joseph's continuing inclusion of some of these dances in his publications of the 1850s indicates that they were still being danced. The Lowe brothers' adoption of these dances helped to keep them alive, rather than being left to be forgotten.

We'll end the investigation here. If you know of further information to highlight the activities of the Lowe family in the long 1820s, do please Contact Us as we'd love to know more.











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